Did you read this week the report from the Cabinet Office ranking different professions and jobs according to the satisfaction and happiness they bring? At the very bottom, 274th on the list for job satisfaction, are pub landlords. The bottom 10 include Bar Staff, Telephone salespersons and debt collectors. The top 10 include hotel managers, farmers and doctors. Second on the list are chief executives and senior officials, although that may be related to them having the highest average income of any profession at £118,000 a year. But do you know who came top?? Despite earning almost £100,000 a year less, according to this survey, the group of workers who gain most satisfaction and are happiest in their jobs are, you guessed it, clergymen. Priests, vicars and ministers are considered to be the happiest in their jobs.
You might not have guessed, because we clergy are not usually renowned for our overflowing happiness. The renowned American Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” In one of his lectures to his ministers in training, C.H.Spurgeon said, “When you are preaching on heaven, your face should light up with joy. When you are preaching on hell, your usual face will do!”
Nevertheless, clergymen are supposed to be the people who are happiest in their work. And so they should be! C.S.Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” All Christians should indeed be “the happiest people on earth.” So what better week to preach on Philippians 4:4?
Rejoice in the Lord always, and I will say it again, rejoice!
Joy has been described as “the surest mark of a Christian” and “the gigantic secret of Christianity”. So how come so many Christians seem to be missing out on joy for so much of the time. Why are some Christians so gloomy and dismal and unexcited about God and about the new life He has given us? Why do some churches have a reputation of being dull and boring? As somebody once said about Christians “If one tenth of what you say you believe is true, you ought to be ten times as excited as you are!”
1. Joy is part of God’s gift of salvation
CS Lewis Joy is the serious business of heaven. Joy is the happiness and excitement we feel as we receive and experience God’s blessings.
Isaiah 35:10 10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 55:12 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 61:10. I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.
Psalms 126:2 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Some people will tell you that joy isn’t the same as happiness. It is a much deeper contentment. That is certainly true. But if we claim to be joyful but never actually enjoy our Christian lives then we are missing out somewhere. If your experience of being a Christian NEVER makes you happy then there is something missing. There are 576 references to joy and gladness and rejoicing in the Bible, and those often come in the contexts of festivals and celebrations. If our joy is so “deep” that we never let any of it surface in gladness and excitement then it isn’t Biblical joy.
One problem is that we live in this age of entertainment where we sit around waiting to be entertained. We expect somebody else to make us laugh and feel good. Whatever did people do before iPods and the internet, before television and even radio? The answer is that a century ago people made their own entertainments. Not just children but adults too. They played sport and didn’t just watch it. They made music and didn’t just listen to it. They played games and put on plays and entertainment was much more of an active thing. The greatest problem the “couch potato” generation face is not their physical health. It is that we have a generation of people who have become passive – who expect to be entertained and have forgotten how to entertain each other.
And I believe this problem can spread even into our Christian lives. We can just sit around waiting to feel joyful. We wait for the preacher or the music group to make us feel joyful. And sometimes it doesn’t happen! “Being joyful” can be something very passive. In contrast, “rejoicing” is something very active. We have to stir ourselves and do our bit. Time and again the Bible invites us to take the initiative, to rejoice!
2. Rejoicing is our proper response to God and to his salvation
God and the angels in heaven rejoice at our salvation – so should we!! One recurring theme in Jesus’s parables is joy and rejoicing.
Luke 15:6 PARABLE OF LOST SHEEP. `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:9 PARABLE OF LOST COIN `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
22 “But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate
We know how to rejoice at parties, at birthday parties and weddings. We need more practice at rejoicing in the Lord, always!
Psalms 35:9 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.
Isaiah 25:9 9. “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
There was a fascinating article in Readers Digest a few years ago, telling the extraordinary stories of ordinary people, “The day I nearly died”. When Lizzie was only two and Susie just a few months old our car was written off in the middle of a pile up. We were very grateful all to survive without a scratch, even our dog Tara who was in the hatchback which was mangled. How much more should we all be grateful and rejoice at the fantastic salvation God has given to us!
God loves us so much! We should rejoice in all the blessings God has poured upon us.
o We are God’s children
o God forgives our sins
o God gives us eternal life
o God is in us – we are in God
o God gives us victory
o God answers our prayer
o The certainty of heaven
o Jesus laid down his life for us
so we experience the length, breadth height and depth of God’s
Great, incredible, amazing fantastic wonderful love !!!!!
If we aren’t excited and happy and joyful about all these wonderful blessings God has lavished upon us, then we can’t have experienced God’s love in the way He wants us to.
Our salvation is SO precious – it is the most important thing in our lives! We will be thinking about two final parables next Sunday morning and here is a sneak preview of one of them:-
Matthew 13:44 44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
The joy we have in our salvation leads us to give everything we have to God!
One particular blessing we can focus on again this evening = our HOPE OF HEAVEN.
We don’t think about heaven enough! When life if getting you down, the Bible tells you to look up, look beyond this life to the glory which is waiting for us all in heaven.
1 Peter 1:3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials…. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We greatly rejoice! We are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!! That is God’s promise! And it has worked for suffering and persecuted saints in every age.
We, like them, can rejoice even in face of suffering and opposition. Even mature Christians can be weighed down sometimes by so many cares of the world. We need to learn to respond to the trials of life with faith in God and a conscious attitude of rejoicing IN God. Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.
Psalms 126:5 5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
James 1:2 2. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
When our faith is tested, when times of illness come, when we face great temptations in the challenge to live a holy life, when we even face opposition and persecution:
Nehemiah 8:10 …. for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
So we should make a point of rejoicing at the salvation God in His grace has given us.
3. So how can we know this joy, this inexpressible and glorious joy??
Joy comes from being in the presence of God and His Holy Spirit. The root of Christian joy is being glad and excited about God! Just like meeting your loved one on a date is a thrilling joyful experience, so meeting with God should be even more thrilling and joyful. Joy comes from being in God’s presence.
Psalms 16:11 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalms 21:6 6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
Acts 13:52 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes the joy God gives when we experience his presence can be quite overwhelming!! Nobody is saying that every Christian has to have spectacular encounters with God. But if we have NEVER met with God in a way which has left us with an awesome sense of wellbeing and Godly excitement and true joy, then start to get excited – God may yet have a few surprises for you! Open your heart and mind and ask God to reveal to you the full measure of “the joy of your salvation”.
Galatians 5:22 22 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
Joy comes from the presence of God – so to find true joy we must draw near to God.
Draw near to God in Prayer – personal and private rejoicing
John 16:22 Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
In prayer we draw near to God. His answers to our prayers will fill us with joy. And we can worship God in private, but something special happens when we join with other believers in praise adoration thanksgiving.
Draw near to God in Worship – corporate rejoicing
Psalms 92:4 4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.
Psalms 5:11 11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
One morning a couple of years ago I preached on the title, “Worship should be joyful”. Worship in the Bible is always reverent, but it is also always exciting and joyful. Just as meeting a pop star or film star or sports star would be thrilling, even more should meeting with the Almighty and eternal God, Our Creator and our Heavenly Father, be amazingly exciting! Sadly, familiarity breeds contempt. And too often we don’t allow ourselves to get excited in worship. If our worship is not characterized by deep joy and exhuberant gladness for all that God is and for all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ, then we’re missed out on something somewhere. That isn’t the characteristic reserve of the English, that’s an absence of joy!
2 Chronicles 30:23 records an amazing worship service. Hezekiah purifies the Temple and celebrated the Passover 23 The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. 26 There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.
So LET US draw near to God this evening and receive His joy. Let us rejoice in the wonderful salvation He has provided for us.
Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy!
Message translation: “Let’s hear it from the Sky with the Earth joining in, and a huge round of applause from the Sea! Let the Wilderness turn cartwheels and the animals come dance. Put every tree in the forest in the choir!”
May God restore to US the joy of our salvation!
Rejoice in the Lord always, and I will say it again, rejoice! Phil 4:4